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Christmas tree crisis looms amid labour and supply chain snags

·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Consumers have been warned of a potential shortage of Christmas trees and higher prices this year in the latest fallout from the labour and supply chain difficulties facing the UK.

Around one tenth of the real Christmas trees sold in the UK are imported, but post-Brexit regulations and a stretched labour market could result in shortages and higher demand for locally grown trees, retailers have said.

Mark Rofe, who owns ChristmasTrees.co.uk, said: “We’ve spoken to our UK growers and they are all facing the same challenges.

“They are seeing an increase in demand for their product, especially from clients who would usually import their trees from Europe, but are keen to avoid any red tape that could increase costs or cause delays for what is of course a highly seasonal and time-sensitive business.”

Meanwhile, the price of raw materials including wood for pallets, labour, fertiliser, labels and transport has soared, leading to rising wholesale prices.

Mr Rofe said: “It’s going to be more challenging to get hold of a real Christmas tree this festive season. However if you are able to get one, you can expect to be paying more than you would have in previous years. Wholesale prices have increased between 5% and 10% just this year.

“With Christmas trees taking an average of 10 years to grow, it’s not a case of simply just cutting more trees, especially when you don’t have the labour to harvest them, or the haulage to transport them across the country.”

Ben Wightman, from Christmas Tree World, also said it could become difficult to fulfil the demand for real trees, which would lead to an increase in demand for artificial trees.

Mr Wightman said: “Lockdowns around the world continue to have a knock-on impact on logistics here in the UK.

“We’re in a fortunate position, we had already invested in new warehousing space this year so we can stock up well ahead of the demand, but we do expect to see a lot of supply disruption generally for retailers and customers this Christmas.”

According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), between eight and 10 million real Christmas trees are sold in the UK each year.

It is estimated that the UK usually imports between one million and three million of those Christmas trees each year from countries elsewhere in Europe.

However the BCTGA, which has 320 members across the UK, reassured customers that there would be no shortage of real locally grown trees this year.

A spokeswoman said: “Christmas 2020 was phenomenal for real Christmas tree sales and we are predicting a similar demand this year.

“There will be no shortage of real British-grown Christmas trees this season – it has been a marvellous growing year. Our growers have no real concerns regarding HGV drivers impacting the movement of trees from farms and many of our growers sell directly to the public.

“Those growers who wholesale to garden centres have been assured by their trusted haulage companies that there will be no problems this season regarding transportation of their trees.

“The public has an increasing understanding that real trees, grown and bought locally, have a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees. This means that real, British Christmas trees are in great demand and we would encourage customers to continue to buy local and support our growers.

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